The impact that Sanders’ 2016 election campaign had on US politics cannot be understated. Even though he lost the Democratic nomination to Hilary Clinton, the progressive, socialist agenda with which he ran won over large numbers of Democrat voters let down by mainstream politics.
Those voters were crying out for change above all else. With a growing distrust of the monotonous bureaucratic elite, as well as the rise of mass social media and the new ease with which information could be spread, the public grew discontent with many established political figures.
If Trump was the Republican voters’ answer to the inaccessibility and perceived corruption of the political establishment, Sanders was the same for disenfranchised Democrats. He allowed unashamed support for truly left-wing ideals in an appeal against an untrustworthy government that promised change but did not supply.
It seems that voters’ worries about a flawed political class were not altogether mistaken. DNC emails released by WikiLeaks suggest that the Democratic primaries were influenced in Hillary Clinton’s
What followed was worldwide disbelief. Bernie lost to Hillary, and Hillary lost to Trump, in a failure of liberal politics to take seriously the threat of retaliation against the establishment by large numbers of Americans that felt their voices had been ignored for too long.
Enthusiasm for Bernie Sanders has not died over the last presidential term, though. In just 24 hours after he announced his bid, his campaign raised close to $6m from over 225,000 donors. With an average donation of around $27, this signalled the same grassroots, small-scale contributions that drove his 2016 bid; the majority of funds raised in his previous run were from donations of less than $200, in contrast to the big business donations upon which many of his competitors relied.
Yet, has Bernie have missed his chance? Progressive, social policies that were too radical for mainstream Democrat support in 2016 are now becoming mainstream among the new generation of liberal politicians. Bernie may have opened the gates, but those attracted to his vision of America have begun to rally around other more diverse progressive figures. Sanders will need to convert a large number of minority voters which he lacked before, as well as compete with female candidates that again aspire to put a woman in the White House. The Democrats should have learnt the lesson to not to campaign based solely on identity, as Clinton was criticised for overly relying on her potential to be the first female president, but it is inevitable that Bernie’s race and gender put him at a disadvantage in the mind of some progressives, no matter how unjust that may seem. He has to diffuse and rebut these criticisms without dismissing the perception of his privileged position.
Politicians like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Beto O’Rourke, and Ayanna Pressley owe a great deal to Bernie Sanders as they argue for a radical new trajectory for liberal politics, and find wide support. But the success of the Bernie Sanders 2020 bid is as reliant on him winning over these key political allies as it is on his convincing voters that he should be the figurehead of a socialist upheaval in Washington.
Bernie Sanders stands as an unapologetically socialist candidate that passionately fights to change the status quo of American politics. It just remains to be seen as to whether he symbolises enough of a change compared to the fresh generation of liberal opponents against which he must compete.M
Image: Wikipedia Commons.